Leon Julian Brendan Best. Don't put his name among the greats just yet.
Newcastle had to defeat Wigan three days prior to this match against West Ham United. And they were expected to defeat West Ham for the second time this season. But very few wins have been easy for Newcastle this season. The unusually tight battle in the bottom half of the Premiership has only added to the pressure on teams trying to break free and earn safety.
Very few teams have been experinecing the pressure and ups and downs that West Ham have gone through. Afrer having barely saved themselves from relegation last season, they have been in the relegation zone for most of this season, with most pundits agreeing that they will likely be relagated this season. West Ham earned eight crucial points in the last four games prior to their visit to St. James' Park. They earned draws out of Blackburn Everton, and they defeated the increasingly dismal looking Fulham and Wolves. Those eight points, plus wins by the bottom teams, put West Ham in an extraordinary swing postion. A win would spring them to 16th place. But a loss would drop them back to the very bottom of the table - 20th place.
Well, how shall I put it? West Ham never had a chance.
At least the Mags never missed Scotty Parker. He was good, but apparently not Best. Parker scored 4 goals in 55 games during his time with the Magpies. But he had a memorable song ('Walking in a Parker Wonderland').
The Hammers played well during the first 10-15 minutes. They created chances, and began to tame and control the ball. But then things went horribly wrong. The attacks stalled. There was a key moment when Frédéric Piquionne received the ball about 10 yards outside the Newcastle box. He passed the ball to the right wing, only to discover that none of his teammates were there to receive it. He looked disgusted, and rightly so. And just one minute later, Newcastle scored the first of five unanswered goals.
What can be said of 24 year-old Irish international, Leon Best? Is he a late bloomer or was he just lucky in this match? He was acquired on loan from Coventry City when Newcastle were in the Championship last season. He was signed to a contract and subsequently injured himself in summer training. He had never touhed the ball in the Premier League until January 2nd, when he missed a golden opportunity to score after being brought in to replace an injured Shola Ameobi. But his next few touches of the ball in this match resulted in goals - three of them. Extraordinary.
Jonas 'Spinderman' Guitierrez was all over the ball...and all over the opposition.
Newcastle United is not a side to embarass opponents. They themselves have been humbled. But they needed this performance. They have talent in the front and in the backfield. Peter Lovenkrands needed to score his first goal this season. Steve Harper got his second consecutive clean sheet in goal. Jonas Gutierrez, who has been good all season, stepped-up his game. So did Jose-Enrique, who put on a wonderful display of his speed. And Joey Barton continued to be the hero of the midfield. Joey was everywhere. He made tackles, finished played, and helped create chances for the goal scorers. It was an MVP performance for the second consecutive game.
The short Dane finally scored this season! I knew he could do it!
There's no denying the fact that this was not a typical match. West Ham stopped playing and Newcastle simply couldn't stop scoring. In particular the two quick goals by Best and Lovenkrands in the second half were stunners. At that point, the game was over and the remaining half hour or so was forgettable. Still, when you have a 5-0 result, it goes into the history books as a memorable victory. It is the third such epic victory that the Toon have enjoyed so far this season. A 6-0 drumming of Aston Villa, a 5-1 beatdown on the Mackems, and now this.
On to the Newcastle United blogs:
Black & White & Read All Over: "Any fears that the second half might see something of a West Ham come-back were quickly dispelled when the ball fell to Best, flirting with offside but in any event completely unmarked, and he took one touch before crashing the ball into the goal to seal a stunning hat-trick (the odds of which were apparently 80-1 before the match)."
Shite Seats: "Leon Best now has more league goals than Wayne Rooney."